They Could Be Clouds – Martin Arnold
America is a statue celebrating a history
That needs to be toppled.
Our heroes are marauders and pillagers.
Our heroes are swarmed by cameras.
Our heroes are thieves and killers.
Our heroes have millions of followers.
In America we say freedom but we mean know your place.
When we say equality, we don’t suggest that any of the inhabitants
Of the shacks on the hills across the river from El Paso
Lean our direction toward a better life.
When we say melting pot,
When we say forge of destiny
What we mean is smelter,
Like the one on the banks of the Rio Grande in El Paso,
A smelter where immigrants are melted down
For their most valuable elements
As heavy metals leach into the soil
To flow downstream
To lettuce farms and feedlots and kitchen faucets
And toxins are pumped into the sky
From the mouth of a towering brick chimney
So far above us
They could be clouds.
Martin Arnold’s third book of poetry, Promiscuous Beauty, was published last November.